By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
FRIDAY, July 24, 2020 (HealthDay News)
America saw its coronavirus case count pass 4 million on Thursday, as health officials across the country reported a third day of more than 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths.
Alabama posted a record-setting 2,390 new cases on Thursday, while four other states — Hawaii, Indiana, Missouri and New Mexico — also hit their single-day peak for new cases, The New York Times reported. Meanwhile, Florida and Tennessee each had more virus-related deaths than on any other previous day.
The rapid spread of coronavirus this summer is sobering, taking just 15 days to go from 3 million cases to 4 million, the Washington Post reported. This spring, it took 45 days to jump from 1 million cases to 2 million, while the leap to 3 million then took 27 days.
California has been slammed twice during the pandemic: it was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order this spring, to slow an early outbreak. But after a reopening that some health officials warned was too fast, cases surged. That triggered a statewide mask mandate and the closure of bars and indoor dining again, the Times reported. With over 422,000 cases, California has surpassed New York to have the most COVID-19 cases of any state. It set a single-day record on Wednesday, with more than 12,100 new cases and 155 new deaths.
In the face of climbing case counts and deaths, President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that the celebratory portion of the Republican National Convention that was to be held in Jacksonville, Fla., has been canceled.
“I looked at my team, and I said the timing for this event is not right, just not right with what’s happened recently. The flare-up in Florida to have a big convention is not the right time,” Trump said during a coronavirus task force briefing. “It’s really something that for me, I have to protect the American people.”
On Wednesday, he announced the federal government will provide $5 billion to vulnerable nursing homes to help them counter the virus, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, three states that have been slammed by the pandemic in recent weeks continued to struggle to handle surges of COVID-19 patients in their hospitals, CNN reported.
Hospitalizations in Florida have risen by more than a third in the 12 days since the state started releasing daily hospitalization data, and at least 53 hospitals in 27 counties said they had no more ICU beds, CNN reported. Miami-Dade County has exceeded its ICU capacity, with 130% occupancy this week, state officials reported.
In California, hospitalization rates and the number of patients in ICUs are again reaching record highs, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), CNN reported.
Texas is faring no better: hospitals in that state are facing an unprecedented wave of hospitalizations — it is the only state in the country with more than 10,000 hospitalizations at the moment.
Testing delays bedevil efforts to curb spread
Across the country, laboratories are being crushed by the surge of coronavirus tests, the AP reported. The bottlenecks are creating problems for workers kept off the job while awaiting results, nursing homes struggling to keep the virus out, and for the labs themselves. Some labs are taking weeks to return COVID-19 results, fueling fears that people without symptoms could be spreading the virus if they don’t isolate while they wait.
“There’s been this obsession with, ‘How many tests are we doing per day?'” former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told the AP. “The question is how many tests are being done with results coming back within a day, where the individual tested is promptly isolated and their contacts are promptly warned.”
Frieden and other public health experts have called on states to publicly report testing turnaround times, calling it an essential metric to measure progress against the virus.
In an effort to find a faster and cheaper way of testing Americans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given emergency approval to pooled testing, which combines test samples in batches, the AP reported.
With pooling, laboratories would combine parts of samples from several people and test them together. A negative result would clear everyone in the batch. A positive result would require each sample to be retested.
The technique works best when fewer than 10% of people are expected to test positive, the AP reported. For example, pooling would not be cost-effective in Arizona, where a surge has pushed positive test results to well over 10%.
More states, retailers turning to mask mandates
As cases and deaths have continued to climb, more states, cities and major retailers have turned to face mask mandates to try to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Roughly two-thirds of states now require face coverings to be worn in public, with Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota the latest to introduce statewide mask mandates, the Post reported.
Increasingly seen as a last hope to slow soaring infection rates across the country, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas announced a face covering requirement last week after taking a more hands-off approach for months, the Times reported. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis also issued a mask order last week, after questioning whether such a mandate would be enforceable.
And Alabama, Montana and the city of Tulsa moved to make face coverings required in public settings, the Post reported. Several large retailers also joined the trend: Walmart, Kroger and Kohl’s, Target and CVS now require all customers in their stores to wear masks.
The new mask mandates suggest that officials and business leaders across America are painfully aware that cases have spiked in 41 states over the past two weeks and things will only worsen if nothing is done, the Times reported.
By Friday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 4 million as the death toll passed 144,000, according to a Times tally.
According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Friday were: California with over 433,000; New York with over 414,400; Florida with more than 389,800; Texas with over 376,000 and New Jersey with over 179,800.
Nations grapple with pandemic
Elsewhere in the world, the situation remains challenging.
Spain’s coronavirus infection rate has tripled since restrictions were lifted at the end of June, the Post reported.
This spring, Spain had managed to contain its outbreak with strict lockdown measures. But over the past three weeks, the country has gone from having eight cases for every 100,000 residents to 27 cases per 100,000 residents, Reuters reported.
Many of the new clusters have been found in Catalonia and are linked to nightlife and large gatherings, health officials said. The Catalan regional government has asked residents to stay at home when not conducting essential business and to limit gatherings to groups of fewer than 10 people.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has tightened social distancing measure, following a sudden surge in infections there, the Post reported. Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, told residents they now must wear face masks in all indoor public spaces, and she said nonessential government employees should work from home.
Things continue to worsen in India. On Friday, the country neared 1.3 million infections and over 30,600 deaths, a Johns Hopkins tally showed. The surge comes weeks after a national lockdown was lifted, and it’s prompted some parts of the country to revert back to stricter social distancing measures. Only the United States and Brazil have higher caseloads.
Brazil is also a hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 2.3 million confirmed infections by Friday, according to the Hopkins tally. It has the second-highest number of cases, behind only the United States.
Cases are also spiking wildly in Russia: As of Friday, that country reported the world’s fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases, at over 799,400, the Hopkins tally showed.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 15.5 million on Friday, with over 633,000 deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.
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